Building Your First Website

As time progresses, it’s becoming easier and easier to design and build websites, in particular if you’re hosting through larger corporations, such as Go Daddy, who often offer free templates with their hosting packages. If you’re a large corporation yourself, I recommend you move away from those templates and spend the money on a designer and developer because no template will be able to replace their expertise. However, if you’re a smaller corporation or wish to have a go at creating your own website, below are a few things I recommend you keep in mind as you put your website together.

General Information

Websites are not like brochures and they are not like newspapers (even the “newspaper sites”) in that the average person isn’t going to spend even 5 minutes trying to figure out what your site is all about. People typically spend about 3-5 seconds judging whether or not the website is worth their time, meaning your site has 3-5 seconds to convince your user to stay and explore. Keep this in mind as I go over some key concepts.

Logo Size

You are going to want your logo to be gigantic. Sometimes this is appropriate, but that’s rarely the case. In most circumstances, your logo should be large enough that people see it and know the company to which the website belongs (so to speak), but not large enough to be a distraction. This is often a very tricky balance to find, in particular if your logo is very detailed. But keep in mind that your logo is really there as more of a watermark rather than a piece of content, in that it should be a reminder that the site is about your company, but shouldn’t act as something that requires lots of attention.

Menu Location

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the majority of sites feature horizontal menus. Simply put, it’s because they work and are generally more effective. As with all items on this list, it’s not a rule that’s set in stone, but generally rings true. Vertical menus are harder to execute if you’re hoping to have a clean and clear website. Additionally, regardless of whether your choose s horizontal or vertical menu, you should make sure the number of top-level items isn’t overwhelming. People should be able to look at your menu and almost instantaneously know your main pages.

Images

You should be using images on your homepage. As the cliche goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Because you only have seconds to convince your user to stay, a thousand words in an instant can be extremely helpful. However, the images need to be chosen and used effective. I recommend a single large image that basically tells the user in itself what your site is all about. For instance, Emigh’s Outdoor Living features a single large image that, standing alone, would at the very least tell the user that these furniture pieces are beautiful and would spark an interest in outdoor furniture. This is an example of effective imagery usage. Any images you decide to use should almost be able to stand alone and speak for themselves. Additionally, they should always be high quality and proportionally sized; nothing turns me off to a website faster than pixelated and/or streched images.

Content

Your homepage should be a quick overview of your services. So your homepage should feature maybe a paragraph of text that briefly describes your company, some highlighted services, and your contact information. You should feature some links to various other pages where users can read more if you’ve succeeded at keeping their attention. On your interior pages, you should feature detailed information in fairly small chunks. People don’t like to read huge paragraphs. Finally, the width of your content should be wide enough that people can scan a decent portion of text with ease; look at various websites you read a lot and focus on how wide their content areas are. Yours should be similar.

Sidebar

Your sidebar should feature helpful items. So links to your services, a list of popular or important pages, contact information, etc are perfect for the sidebar. Don’t worry that your contact information is now in several locations; you should repeat it often to remind users that you’re just a phone call/email away. People often clutter their sidebars, which is a turn off to a lot of users, so be sure that the information you feature in the sidebar is important and helpful to the user, whomever that may be.

Bottom Navigation

Have you ever scrolled to the bottom of a page and wanted to see another page and had to scroll back up to the top menu to do so? Were you annoyed? I certainly am whenever that happens. For that reason alone, I like to feature my main navigation items again at the bottom of the site. This allows my users to scroll through my pages, read the content, then click to another page without having to be bothered to scroll all the way back up. It doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but remember that your user is finicky and any annoyance, however slight, could be the reason they leave. Additionally, having easy bottom navigation is a helpful SEO tool, which is favored by several search engines.

I’ve tried to touch on all the areas a typical website will feature, so I hope that’s helpful as you build your first website! Good luck and feel free to show me your results! Or, if you think there’s something I missed, let me know and I’ll be happy to cover it!